Wednesday 30 June 2010

Invoice night.

End of the month, time to bill for the work.

Anyone can see that's more important than blogging, right?

Tuesday 29 June 2010

No confidence.

Tessie May (they really have difficult-to-corrupt names, this new lot) has told the police to chase criminals rather than targets. I suspect the rest of the country, if not the world, responded with a resounding 'Well... duh!"

Home Secretary Theresa May announced the immediate abolition of the last remaining target, which was to increase public confidence in police.

Oh. They only had the one target anyway. Increase public confidence. And that's now abolished.

Which is just as well because they weren't, still aren't, and are unlikely to get, anywhere near achieving it.

Ignorance of the law is no defence (at least for the rest of us), so why are these police officers not being charged with assault? How many of these 'police harass photographer' stories need to be broadcast all over the news before the police notice them? Just how dim are the people we recruit to the police force now? Can't they read?

Confidence in people who repeatedly fail to notice when the national press report that they don't understand their job - not just once, but over and over again?

Abolishing that target was a good idea. They were never going to get there anyway.


If you go into hospital in Wales, you can't have any.

Coming soon to a town near you.

So, how much more abuse and control would you like? There's plenty more to come.

Having fun yet?

More ban hysteria.

Sunbeds are in the ban-sights again. I've never used one and never will. I like my pallid look. It suits me. Besides, all that UV might destroy my superpower - the dreaded Yellow Finger of Nicotine - by overwriting it with sunburn. The mere sight of the Yellow Finger can cause spontaneous bowel-emptying in antismokers. It's not all that yellow, but it's enough. I wonder if Electrofag can be designed to produce the Yellow Finger of Nicotine? I suppose there's no need. It'll be on the badges we'll have to sew on our clothes soon.

There are many reasons for me not to use sunbeds. I don't turn golden brown. I turn into Lobster Man then shed my skin. There's also the time aspect. I cannot lie still, doing nothing, for that long. Finally, the temptation to write 'Arse' on another sleeping sunbedder's head with black insulating tape would be too much to resist. So I stay away. I don't care if you want to bathe in UV light any more than I care if you want to bathe in nitric acid. I'm wrecking my body in my own way. You wreck yours any way you like. Know the risks, take the risks, have a good time because if you don't, you'll feel very silly one day when you die of nothing.

The Banmeisters want these sunbeds banned. Why? Well, they cause cancer. So does inhaling traffic fumes, going out in the sunshine, taking a shower and eating and drinking just about everything. Sometimes, cancer just happens for no visible reason at all. Sometimes you just can't win.

Okay, it is impossible to deny that bathing in concentrated UV light increases the risk. But did the sunbed kill this woman? Really?

A 31-year-old mother-of-eight died after sunbeds caused a cancerous mole the size of a prune to develop on her leg.

31, mother of eight, wow. She was even more active than smokers. I doubt she was one or it would have been blamed on smoking by now.

Teresa Zawadski had never sunbathed outdoors, instead opting to use the sunbed she kept at her Derbyshire home.

Okay. Can't blame this one on those sunbed parlours then. She had her own, at home, even though it apparently caused even more pregnancies than smoking.

Now her grieving mother has called for an outright ban on the sunbeds she believes were responsible for her daughter's death.

She had her own sunbed, at home, used it her own way, and because she died all of those who own sunbeds must give them up. Will that bring her back? Will it encourage anyone else to read the instructions for any appliance? No, it won't do a thing other than deprive those who like to look as if they spend half the year in Haiti from doing so.

So did the sunbed kill her?

But when a mole on her leg started to grow she was too scared to get it looked at by doctors.
She ignored it until her mother Helen forced her to seek medical help,

No. Cancer killed her. Skin cancer which quite probably was, indeed, initiated by her use of a UV bed. The bed didn't kill her. Ignoring an obvious risk factor associated with her activity over a long period is what killed her. Presumably she kept using the sunbed during the development of the tumour?

I smoke. If I started coughing hard or developed chest pains, I would get that checked because it's a risk associated with smoking. Chest pains could be just too much caffeine (wouldn't be the first time) and a persistent cough could be just too much time stuck indoors, but things like that, whether you're a smoker or not, could be an early sign of something nasty.

I smoke. I know the risks. If I developed signs associated with those risks, I'd get them checked.

Teresa showed me the mole one day and I couldn't believe how big it was. It was the size of a prune and raised from off her skin.

She wouldn't get it checked and she just let it grow.

The sunbed did not kill her. Ignoring a very blatant sign of a developing cancer is what killed her. Tobacco comes with warnings. I don't believe that sunbeds don't come with warnings too. Hell, a packet of peanuts comes with warnings these days. She knew what it was and ignored it.

If she had sunbathed outside instead if using a sunbed, she might still have developed this. Many do. Should we ban the sun?

Derby hospitals' Dr Tanya Bleiker called for a new law which would mean all sunbed users must first sign a consent form to show they have been given information warning of the dangers.

She said: 'Sunbed use increases the risk of skin cancer and I strongly advise people to avoid using them.'

If we are to avoid using something that kills one person, Dr. Bleiker, how would you suggest we regard the NHS?

Going outside increases the risk of skin cancer. Staying in increases the risk of vitamin D deficiency. Either way, you'd end up in the clutches of the NHS and then you're in big trouble.

Banning things that kill people once in a while is a risky route to take. Once in a while, someone dies of an allergic reaction to a protein in apples, you know.

There is always an NHS medic ready to support a ban on things that might be dangerous.

They have never noticed the irony.

Sunday 27 June 2010

Ban me!

Smokers, apparently, love the smoking ban and want it extended right to the backs of their throats. We adore the fresh feeling of sub-zero gales in which the only way to light a cigarette is with a welding torch. We really don't feel we've been banned hard enough yet and we want to be beaten more.

That's what the Guardian says. We really are turkeys voting for Christmas.

I know a good few smokers who have just accepted that smoking is banned and honestly seem to have blotted out their memory of the past. They don't recall that we were thrown off buses and trains long before the ban anyway and have just accepted that we are now thrown off the platforms and bus stops too. That does not mean they like it and it does not mean they want it to be made harsher. Those comments below the article along the lines of 'I'm a smoker and I love the smoking ban' are not written by smokers at all.

Would you believe a comment saying 'I'm an animal rights activist and I think foxhunting is good?' Would you nod in sage agreement at a comment that says 'I'm an illegal immigrant and I think I should be sent back?' Or would you be thinking 'Shill'?

A long time ago, I have a fuzzy recall of a report from Apartheid-era South Africa in which the white ruling classes insisted that the black people supported apartheid and wanted it that way. I remember thinking: 'A whole swathe of their society actually wants to be oppressed? Doesn't sound likely to me'. Yet this was reported without a hint of disbelief, even though it was patently nonsense.

This is the same. Some smokers might have accepted that we are to be shunned and despised by people who have never met us and never will, but most have not and never will. The Dreadful Arnott can claim that we really like being beaten up and spat on but it's not true, never was and never will be.

Three years after the smoking ban controversially came into force in England, a substantial proportion of smokers want to see restrictions extended to children's play areas and smoking in cars. Just under half of smokers support a ban in play areas, while 61% support a ban in cars with children.

I wasn't asked. A few smokers read this blog. Were any of you asked? How about nonsmokers or even antismokers? Anyone out there who was asked, or who knows anyone who was asked?

I've never been to South Africa and I'm not black so you could argue that the lies about apartheid didn't affect me and I should shut up and leave it alone. Likewise, with no car and no kids, you could argue that a ban in cars and play areas won't affect me - and it won't - so why am I bothered?

Two reasons. First, this ban is now at my own front door and any advance it makes means that I will soon have to go outside my own house to smoke. Then they could designate every garden as a 'potential play area' and I won't even be allowed in my garden.

Second, this is based entirely on absolute lies. When I was a child, my father smoked in the car. When I grew up, I spent a lot of time and money in smoky pubs. There is no comparison. You could see the smoke in some pubs as soon as you walked through the door. There was never a smoke haze in the car. With a window open you couldn't even smell smoke.

Dame Helena Shovelton, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said the findings showed the government had to act.

Why do we have a British Lung Foundation? My internal organs are not autonomous beings. There is no discussion between brain and stomach over what to have for lunch, nor is there a meeting between brain and liver to set the drinking agenda for the evening. My lungs are my lungs. They will inhale what they are damn well told to inhale and they will not be writing letters to Shovelface to complain.

"Smoking just one cigarette, even with the car window open, creates a greater concentration of secondhand smoke than a whole evening's smoking in a pub or a bar," Shovelton said. "A ban on smoking in the car with children would prevent some of the 22,000 new cases each year of asthma, caused as a direct result of passive smoking.

Absolute lies. Total and absolute made-up nonsense. There is absolutely nothing to suggest a link between passive smoking and asthma. Nor is there any evidence to suggest a link between passive smoking and anything else. It is all made up. Here is how it is done.

This overwhelming evidence of public support can no longer be ignored, and as the only UK charity supporting everyone affected by lung disease we are calling for this legislation."

You are calling for legislation, Shovelface? Who voted you into government? Who elected you into a position to write the law? The ones we did vote for were not granted the right to order us around, so what makes you think you have the right to decide what the law should be?

An early day motion in parliament demanding a ban on smoking in cars where children are present has been signed by 40 MPs.

Name them. Then sack them. They are not there to play God with their constituents' lives. They are public servants. If they are playing around with this nonsense they are not doing their jobs and if they believe this rubbish then they are too stupid even for public office. Their IQs are evidently well below the level required for effective shoelace-tying and they should be dismissed at once. And preferably locked away for their own safety because they cannot be trusted to cross the street on their own.

Ash said that despite the legislation one non-smoker in eight continues to be exposed to tobacco smoke during their work, often at the entrances.

And why would that be? When there was a designated smoking room indoors, nobody walked past a smoker unless they wanted to. Now that smokers are forced to go outside, ASH complain that we are outside. You want a reasonable attitude and fair play and consideration from smokers? Look at what we get from you and expect exactly the same level of fair play in response.

The group also claimed there was no objective evidence the hospitality industry overall had suffered as a result of smoke-free regulations.

Well, there's this for a start.

Then they repeat the 'reduction in heart attacks' lie and list some 'facts' they have dredged up.

2m children live in households where they are exposed to cigarette smoke.

Really? Smokers must be extraordinarily virile, mustn't we? Proof positive that smoking increases fertility, wouldn't you say?

One smoker emits five times more fine particles into a car than are emitted per mile by the car's exhaust pipe.

A nonsense comparison unless you have a car where the exhaust pipe vents into the cabin. In any car that can pass an MOT, there should be no exhaust gas at all entering the cabin. Do any of you antismokers really believe that running a car for a mile produces less smoke than half a gram of leaves wrapped in paper? Even if it was a Prius? Some of you actually do, don't you?

It is estimated that every year passive smoking causes 25,500 new cases of respiratory tract infection in children under three, as well as 121,400 new cases of middle-ear infection and 22,600 cases of wheezing and asthma.

Estimated = we made it up. There is no scientific evidence for any of this. Infections are caused by bacteria and viruses, and smoke is burned and therefore sterile. You cannot catch any form of infection from any kind of smoke. It is simply not possible. As for middle ear infection - what? How the hell does smoking get blamed for bacterial infections of body parts that smoke can't even reach?

About 1 in 8 boys and 1 in 10 girls have a long-term respiratory disease.

They have classed a cold as a long-term respiratory disease. They offer no link at all to smoking, neither active nor passive. The link is to be made in your own mind, which means they can say 'We didn't claim that' when they are proved to be lying.

And which impartial scientific organisation produced these 'facts'?

Source: British Lung Foundation

Good God, how bloody stupid are you people? How the hell did they get 40 MPs to fall for this, along with a huge swathe of wannabe gas-chamber operators and potential camp guards?

Oh, go ahead. Cry 'Nicotine Fiend' and bleat about the smell and believe that they are not going to go any further and are not coming for you too.

These Righteous have the country well under the heel now. So go on, antismokers, give that jackboot one more lick before it aims for your own preferred form of relaxation.

When it does, don't ask the smokers for help.

Break that trap.

Al-Jahom links to this and makes very valid points.

If there are no jobs in your area, move. I'm currently at the other end of the country from the rest of my family and have been for a long time. I've lived in several places in between including a stint with nowhere to live, which I fixed without State help.

There are no chains binding anyone to anywhere. In fact, according to the EU, you can live and work anywhere in it. You're not even restricted to the UK.

Except... Labour have thought of that, haven't they? If you're currently in council housing, chances are that you had to wait on a list to get that house. Most likely a long list and you'll have watched the special-pleading cases overtake you while you waited.

So if you move somewhere else, you're back to the bottom of the list and as you're not local and in work (the reason you moved), you're below zero points. Okay. Rent somewhere. Not so easy though, not unless your job lets you afford to rent. Plus you'll now have all those household bills that the Benefits used to cover for you.

If you're out of work and in council accommodation, you are likely to face a serious downgrade in your standard of living if you move somewhere else to work. It's temporary but it's hard going. You can improve on it yourself but once you leave the Righteous behind, they won't help you at all. Labour's gamble was that you would not dare to do that. They gave you that 'Entitled' feeling and told you you were too good for low-paid work and let's be honest, who could resist flattery oiled with free cash?

It is possible to get out of the benefits trap but it will never be easy. It's not going to be any easier tomorrow, nor the next day, nor the day after that.

You have a choice. You can take the money and go back to sleep, exist on handouts until you die early in a hospice somewhere.

Or you can take your life back. It will involve a lot of work and sometimes you'll wonder why you're bothering but gradually, that feeling of 'entitled' will be replaced by a much better feeling. One that was stolen from you, corrupted, broken and given back as a distorted version of itself.

That feeling is 'self-worth' and when you feel it, you'll realise just what Labour have done to you and your family all these years.

I'm not saying you'll end up as rich as Polly Toynbee or be able to send your kids to posh schools like Diane Abbot. I'm certainly not rich but I get by pretty well on my own efforts. No handouts. I'm not saying it will be easy - it won't be.

I'm saying you can take the chance and try.

It's up to you.

Electrofag - smoke rings.

It's a draw.

Both the Titan and the NJoy produce coherent smoke rings.

I like smoke rings. For me it's a big part of the relaxation. It took me some time to learn to do it and it's nice to see that Electrofag allows it too.

Smoke rings are an indoor thing unless the air outside is really still. They don't work in a gale cutting across a maliciously-designed smoking 'shelter'.

Both the Electrofags I've tried produce good rings. That part works.


I have a little garden so I can only fit in a six-by-four foot greenhouse. I am also restricted by the fact that I need the door to be in the four-foot end rather than the six-foot side because the space available means the sides won't be easy to get at.

The greenhouse had to come out of spare cash and I have accumulated enough so this is on order.

Yes, cheaper ones are available but I don't want to have to replace it so I went for the best I could get at the level of cash available. The box-section polycarbonate provides insulation as well as being less readily broken by the horrible children that infest the area. Plus, it makes it harder to see what's growing inside.

All I need now is a bottle to bribe the greenhouse-man from Smoky-Drinky to put it together. He gets the bottle when he's done. I don't want it installed upside down.

And yes, smoking will happen inside, permitted or not. I'm sure no plants will complain although the chillies have other ways of getting revenge. But they'll do that anyway.

A little test.

I ordered another battery and some standard cartridges for the Njoy because I know someone who has tried to stop smoking tobacco and repeatedly failed. So I'll give them a charged battery and a full cartridge to try. If they don't like it they can give me the battery back. If they do, they can buy a kit for less than a month's cost of smoking - if they are on a pack a day it's less than nine days' worth. And still give me the battery back because they'll have their own then.

Then I'll move on to the next one who says they are addicted to tobacco. Eventually I'll have enough for some statistics.

I had to order more cartridges because I like menthol, so I have menthol cartridges. I even have menthol filters for rolling. Most smokers don't like menthol so I need some ordinary ones to pass around.

The More and Consulate cigarettes used to be favourites but they used weak tobacco so I just ended up smoking more. Menthol filters in rollups are, to me, the best of both worlds. Both NJoy and Titan have menthol options.

Let's see how it goes.

Saturday 26 June 2010

Attack of the Vapers.

If you want to suffer the most monumental hangover possible, go out drinking with scientists. Especially nutritionists and dietary experts. Their claim that alcohol is bad for you is based on their personal experience and those units? Well, they weren't intended to be 'alcohol units per day'. They were meant to be 'bottles per day' but whoever wrote the report was plastered.

I met up with an old friend in the pub first. I haven't seen him in a long time and haven't been in that pub for about twenty years. I pushed open the door to the lounge bar to be greeted by tables, tablecloths and a bunch of folk having a curry. It's a restaurant!

The public bar, on the other hand, is exactly the same as it was twenty years ago, and probably for fifty years before that. With one exception. No ashtrays. Even some of the drunks were the same. Some of them would be listed as 'fixtures' if the pub were sold.

No smoking shelter, but it was a fine night. The pub has no beer garden so we can't take drinks outside. That kills the smoke/drink combination and that'll be why the lounge bar is a curry house now. On the plus side, they also serve food in the public bar so we were able to have a pakora with our drinks, rather than having to wander along to the pakora shop afterwards, as in the old days.

The old friend is the same age as me and a non-smoker. He is now on pills for all sorts of things and has had cameras rammed up his jacksi by aliens, sorry, doctors. All those tales of alien abductions and anal probes are real, you know, but they weren't aliens. They are a special SWAT version of the NHS. Watch out for their saucer-shaped mobile botty-prodding labs! Did you know they record the event on film? I wonder if they have parties where they get drunk and then get the botty videos out.

There is no longer any difficulty striking up conversations with smokers because we're all bundled outside now. A certain spontaneous camaraderie has developed because of this ban and if anything, it has become easier to start up conversations on politics. We're suffering the effects directly and reminded of it every time we feel like lighting up.

The barman wasn't too keen on the realistic-looking NJoy Electrofag but he was reluctantly okay with the black Titan. In the event, it was a fine night and we weren't there long anyway so I didn't strain his nerves. With the real thing enjoyable on a warm evening, it seemed churlish to press the barman's patience. He's been introduced to the concept now so if I, or anyone, asks again he'll be prepared.

I did discuss both with the smokers outside. They preferred the realistic look, and the fact that the NJoy is lighter than the Titan came out too. There are good points to both, which I'll cover in more detail when I've compared them for a couple of days.

One thing I noticed with the NJoy is that the well-loaded cartridge shows no sign of losing its puffability even after a lot of passing-around last night. The only downside is that the first puff on a new cartridge is very strong indeed. You get a real wallop with the first go but it settles quickly and I'll know to expect it with the second one. The first one today tasted funny but that's because I'd wiped it with an alcohol swab (no idea what germs it might have picked up while being passed around) and didn't wait long enough. The Titan cartridge was worn out and I have a supply of those so I just put on a new one.

I don't know if it's possible to refill the cartridges, they are not designed to be refilled but when I have an empty one I won't be able to resist trying. They aren't prohibitively expensive. £8.99 for five, equivalent in total to around 150 cigarettes, works out about the same as paying £1.20 for a pack of 20 readymades. But I'm going to try refilling anyway because meddling with things is what I do.

Parts are not interchangeable between the two brands so I can't try a hybrid. That was a little surprising. I hadn't considered that there might be more than one manufacturer for such specialised batteries.

After 'a certain number' of beers we made our way to the after-meeting party where the bar consisted of a man in a tent with a box of bottles and a tub of ice. Primitive but serviceable. Millers and Budweiser were on sale at three quid a bottle, or there was Glenlivet at two pounds a shot. No contest.

There aren't many smokers among scientists these days but there are still some, and an upcoming bunch of new students who smoke too. So there was interest in the Electrofag there too. Again, the preference was for the realistic one, but then the unrealistic one was recognised as being more likely to pass the scrutiny of bar staff who were too busy to check.

I caused absolute horror in some by pointing out that a zero-nicotine one produces nothing but flavoured steam and was perfectly safe for non-smokers to use. There seems to be a perception, even among educated people, that you can become addicted to nicotine just by thinking about it. You cannot become addicted to nicotine by 'smoking' an Electrofag that contains no nicotine. It will not make you 'like cigarettes' because real smoke is different. So no, it won't start children on real smoking even if they were issued with an Electrofag at birth. The worst it can do is flush out your sinuses.

It's no different to a non-drinker having a glass of grape juice masquerading as wine. I can't remember the name of that stuff now but it's available. What's the point of it? Well, if you don't drink and your friends are having wine, you can have a glass of something that looks and tastes rather like wine but has no alcohol in it. So you can socialise.

In the same way, you can socialise with your smoking friends using a zero-nicotine Electrofag and you're not really smoking at all. You have a steam generator that looks like a cigarette. Giolla (in the comments here) does just that and it has not turned him into a smoker. Just like the alcohol-free 'wine', it's a means of joining in with your friends without abandoning your principles or worrying about your health.

Even if it developed into a habit, so what? There's no nicotine in there. No tar. No particulates. None of the scary chemicals that are apparently present in litre quantities in every particle of real smoke. Not even carbon monoxide,because nothing is burning. You cannot become addicted to flavoured steam so if it becomes a habit, it's a harmless one.

Antismokers will be incensed at the suggestion. They will accuse me of 'promoting smoking' and I am. In a sense. I'm promoting the act of smoking rather than the tobacco products. They won't like it, not one bit, but they can't ask for compromise. We asked them for a compromise on the smoking ban, and they wouldn't even let us set up a smoking club with all non-smokers excluded. No indoor smoking at all remains their goal and they will extend it to my own home if they can. So scream and wail, antismokers, call me names, accuse me of whatever you want. You made me your enemy. I didn't ask for the job but I'll do it to the best of my ability.

Electrofag is not the same as smoking. If it was, I'd have ditched the leaves and gone on to this cleaner, cheaper way of smoking at once. So a non-smoker who inhales flavoured steam is not going to like smoking a real cigarette.

Once in a while, someone might decide they like smoking and take it up and those antismokers will come back here and scream 'See! See what you did?' and I'll tell you now, you can sit and watch me not care. Smoking is a personal choice. I am no more responsible for someone else's choices than anyone else is for mine. If you want me to feel guilty, ask yourself how much guilt you feel over smokers being persecuted and even attacked while out in the cold and dark, where you sent us? That's how much guilt you can expect from me if I ever start someone smoking.

Nicotine-free Electrofag is not a route into smoking any more than Quorn is a route into hamburgers or the alcohol-free 'wine' is a route into lying flat in the gutter. If you come at smoking from the angle of a nicotine-free Electrofag you are doing exactly the same as a teetotaler buying non-wine to drink while their friends drink wine, or a vegetarian buying something vegetarian that looks like sausages so they can join in the barbecue. If someone subsequently takes up smoking, which is very different, that's their choice.

If you want to blame me, go ahead. You've already blamed me for every health issue anyone ever gets anyway. What's one more?

This is a war and we smokers have lost ground time and time again. We have now reached the end of the retreat and have nowhere to go. The enemy are, quite literally, at our front doors now and there is no more time for discussion and futile attempts at compromise. We are fighting a Dalek-style 'exterminate' mentality and we really need to wake up and realise that. They are not going to compromise, they are not going to listen and they are not going to stop.

Every nonsmoker who buys a nicotine-free Electrofag is perfectly safe unless ASH manage to 'prove' that steam is addictive and I fully expect them to try. We inflict no casualties, not even imagined ones, this way. This fightback harms nobody.

What it can do is to make the sight of smoking normal again. Even if the pub is filled only with zero-nicotine and standard Electrosmokers and we tobacco puffers still have to go outside, it's a start.

Soon enough, those Electrosmokers will start to question why we have to go outside at all.

Also, the more business Electrofag gets, the more research will go into making it exactly like smoking and I'm all for that. It will not kill the tobacco industry. Where do you think they get the nicotine? All those nicotine-extracted leaves could be used to fire a 'green' power station too.

Oh, and if you are trying to stop smoking but can't, you are not addicted to nicotine. Most of the ex-smokers I know just stopped because they decided they weren't enjoying it any more. As one of them said; 'giving up smoking is easy - just stop putting cigarettes in your mouth and lighting them'. Another, a lifelong pipe smoker, simply said one day 'I don't want to do it any more' and that was that. No withdrawal, no cold turkey. No addiction.

Everyone I know who tried patches and gum has gone back to smoking. I know nobody who managed to stop using those things. It's not the nicotine. It's the smoking. Nicotine at smoking levels is harmless. Nicotine in concentrated form is toxic. So are most vitamins and essential trace elements. Don't fall for the 'nicotine is harmful' crap - it's the tars and particulates that carry the risk, not the nicotine and even they are only a risk if you smoke a lot. Otherwise you're inhaling more nasty chemicals on any busy high street than you'll ever get from active smoking. Passive smoking is a con. Passive Electrosmoking is beyond silly. Second hand steam?

Electrofag makers are not allowed to claim that their products will help you stop smoking because the antismoker groups don't make any money out of them. They'll never be allowed to claim it because you don't stop smoking, you just switch to a different way of smoking. If you are trying to stop and failing, it's because you like smoking. If you really want to get off the tobacco for any reason, financial, health, nagging spouse - try an Electrofag.

Which one? Well, I'll be comparing Titan and NJoy products this week. I must declare a bias in that the Titan makers have employed the CAMRA defence - 'don't ban us, ban the filthy smokers instead' - and I no longer link to them until such time as they publicly recant. Also, the NJoy was kindly donated by the manufacturers so I will attempt to not let this difference colour my judgement. You should be aware that it is there, all the same, in the interests of scientific impartiality.

There are differences. Big ones are already evident. Comparison on looks isn't fair because both types are available in forms that look like real cigarettes and in forms that don't. Comparison on weight - the NJoy is noticeably lighter but still too heavy to have dangling from your mouth like a real one, although it could be done with practice. On associated gadgetry, the Titan has much more at the moment but then the Titan has a USB charger as an optional extra. The NJoy has the USB charger as standard with a mains USB adapter. That's a better option for computer-tied smokers.

There are a lot of differences to cover and this post is already huge. I'll have to look at differences one by one.

Both have zero nicotine options so nonsmokers, take your pick.

Reticent? Well, vegetarians can have meatless sausages and teetotallers can have alcohol-free beer and wine and dieters can have fat-free versions of most things so why can't you have smokeless smoking?

You have to be over 18 to buy an Electrofag. Even the nicotine-free one. That's your only restriction.


Okay, there was a scientific meeting in town. I didn't join up because all my stuff is commercial and confidential and I hate those people. The ones who ask what you're doing but then can't tell you what they're doing. I don't want to be one of them. So I didn't go.

Several people I've known for a long time were at the meeting. I met one of them in the pub this evening and we followed on to the end-of-meeting party.

I took along Electrofag as well as the new, donated version, in case these intelligent people had all fallen for the hype.

Fortunately they had some brain function remaining. Some smoked, all were fascinated by Electrofag. It's a gadget, we're scientists, hardly a fair test but it's the first one.

I'll write more tomorrow but the overriding opinions were that the bar staff prefer the black-with-blue-light Titan while the smokers prefer the more realistic Njoy pro duo.

The bar staff preference is doubtless due to not needing to go over and check.

Friday 25 June 2010

Close shave.

Our govmint want to increase the pension age to 66 in 2016.

That is the year in which I will be 66. So I will be getting the pennies of pension I paid pounds for one year before they clamp down on everyone else. I will be so delighted I might even put a down payment on a Reliant Robin. Second hand.

Well, big deal. I smoke and drink and eat salt and fat and if I'm still alive then, the State Sandman is sure to visit to remove embarrassments from the gene pool. Even if I can get to 66 I will be looking after myself. If I can't then no amount of money will make continuation worthwhile.

Pension, to me, is death's back door. Accept that and you accept the end. It's a black scythe in State garb.

There is no predetermined end to my life. One day it will just stop.

I will not take the State's word on when that should be. I will not waste the end of it on SAGA holidays and allotment pottering. I don't know when the end will come.

It will come but when it does, it will find me with teeth bared and eyes open.

And a lit cigarette.

Oh, and if the bottle isn't empty. then you'll have to come back later.

Correction- I'll only be 56 in 2016. I can't even imagine being around in 2026. It feels like far too long for anyone to be hanging around.
So I won't escape the ever-vanishing retirement age. There's really not much of an argument left for stopping smoking or cutting down on booze and fat and salt. Living longer just means working longer. Might as well enjoy ourselves and cash in early because retirement is an empty promise anyway.

Thursday 24 June 2010

It never stops.

The oddly named NICE, which is composed entirely of people who are not nice at all, now demands that all pregnant women are pressured into being tested for carbon monoxide. If they say they don't smoke but test positive they will be branded liars.

Carbon monoxide from cigarettes is there, but it's tiny. Carbon monoxide from traffic is much higher. So no matter how you get to the midwife, you're going to test positive unless you take the rural route by horse and cart.

Therefore you will be branded a liar, even if you've never smoked, and the resultant nagging is likely to stress you to the point of miscarriage. That's modern health care from NICE.

It's time this organisation was shut down entirely. They are responsible for a constant outpouring of utter rubbish, control freakery and the postcode lottery that determines whether you can get treatment for whatever ails you. If we didn't have NICE we could afford much more medicine and we'd all be less stressed. The people in this organisation are unemployable in the real world and should be humanely destroyed. Really. They are utterly useless in any capacity and will simply be a drain on NHS psychiatric services if allowed to live.

Look at these quotes:

...around a third of women smoke while pregnant,

Nearly half of all children in the UK are exposed to tobacco smoke at home.

Smokers are currently around 20% of the population. A third of pregnant women smoke, therefore smokers breed faster and more efficiently than non-smokers. We're only a fifth of the population but we account for a third of the pregnant women.

Half of all children are exposed to smoke at home - therefore smokers have more children than anyone else. One-fifth of the population is producing half of the children and we're only using a third of pregnancies to do it. Damn, we're good at that. Smoking is therefore fantastic for your sex life and increases fertility beyond the bounds of reality. These are NICE's figures, not mine.

So what about those 'damaged sperm' and 'Mr. Floppy' warnings on the packets? The figures presented by NICE suggest that smoker's sperm all have little Superman capes on them and it's more effective than Viagra. We have to whack it down with a ruler to get our pants on some mornings.

The new control-freakery will exacerbate the difference. All those non-smokers who are accused of being smokers will worry themselves into miscarriage while the smoking women will say 'Bollocks' and relax with a cigarette, then produce a healthy and well-balanced child who can grow up to be a fireman and walk through burning buildings without breathing apparatus.

The figures are, of course, entirely fabricated. As usual. There are more smoking pregnant women than there are smokers, if you take the figures as real. NICE is a Labour creation that is trying to continue as if Labour were still in charge. They are not.

Time for the Cleggeron to find a new thing to cut. Go on, you know it makes sense.

It'll save you money and it'll save us a lot of stress. Disposing of NICE will save the NHS a lot of money too.

Even when you die, the Safety Elf still has rules.

A council has removed a wooden cross placed on a grave. It was a temporary cross, placed while the family waited for a proper carved stone. Which, no doubt, would have been immediately laid flat in case it fell on someone. Councils are staffed by the feeble and the dim these days. None of them have worked out the health status of those graveyard tenants but I bet someone, somewhere, is working on a report. They are all non-smokers, you know, all those dead people. They have all stopped smoking, stopped drinking, stopped driving and are losing weight. You just know what that report is going to conclude, don't you?

Apparently the cross does not fit health and safety guidelines. It's two bits of wood fixed together. Who spends time writing guidelines on how that should be done? There's a photo of it in the article. It's not a couple of two-by-fours banged together with nails, it's a well made and polished piece of work.

Ah, but it's not Council work. You can tell that by the way it's nicely made. Not being Council work, it cannot be Council approved.

Health and Safety consider a three-foot plank with another plank fixed to it as dangerous. Even though it's stuck in the ground in plain sight, it's dangerous. Even though it is placed exactly where everyone would expect such a thing to be found, it's dangerous.

The authority said that because the cross stood about 2ft up from the ground it was a health and safety risk.

There is nothing dangerous about it. This is pure Council spite and malice.

Council spokesman Nick Yates said: 'There are a number of regulations we ask people to follow and our staff did discuss with the family what could be placed in the cemetery and we do give relatives written information to this effect.

Yes, the council own the dead now. You cannot decide what sort of memorial you leave for your dead, you can only do as instructed by the council. You cannot place a cross in a place where everyone with half a brain would expect to find a cross because some total moron might think he's in the railway station and trip over it while running for a train. Those Council staff could not even lay it flat on the grave. They took it away and dumped it in an alley.

'Our staff try to deal with all situations in a sensitive way.'

No, they don't. Ripping out a cross from a grave and dumping it in a back alley is not, even by my uber-cynical standards, 'sensitive'. It is spiteful and cruel and unnecessary. It wasn't even meant to be permanent and your staff knew it. It didn't fit with Council standardisation and that comes way higher on your staff's priority list than any concern for the relatives of the deceased.

If you did that to one of my family, Nick Yates, you would find that cross somewhere you wouldn't expect to find such a thing and believe me, it would sting for a long time.

I hope Health and Safety would fine you for having it there, too.

Interesting combinations.

A bottle of this stuff...

...and one of these.

Wednesday 23 June 2010

Entertainment time 2

This is another that wasn't good enough for publication. Too old-fashioned in style, perhaps.

It's one of a lot of Blackthorn family tales...

Arbuthnot’s Eyes.

The late October sun turned to blood when I opened Arb’s gate that Wednesday evening. It seemed appropriate, given that Arb had insisted I visit him one last time. They were his words, ‘one last time’. When he phoned, I rushed over to his home with the stirrings of panic tightening my chest. He sounded calm and rational, but I knew the depth of his beliefs and I feared he might have acted on them. He had not.

Arb sat on his porch, facing the sunset. I joined him. As was customary, we acknowledged each other with a nod. Some evenings we spent in animated discussion, others passed in silence. I took the seat beside Arb. He poured whisky, I lit a cigar and studied his expressionless features for any hint as to what he planned for this night.

Cecil Arbuthnot Blackthorn took a deep draw of his hand-rolled cigarette, held it, then exhaled a plume of smoke into the night air. Throughout all this, not a muscle twitched among the furrows of his face. Arb—he had always hated his first name—had reached eighty-seven years of age. His eyes looked like they had died when he was thirty.

I tapped my cigar against the ashtray. A night breeze cut across Arb’s porch to stir the ash. No doubt some fortune-teller could make something of the shapes it formed but I preferred not to know.

Barely into my sixties, I had only begun to accumulate the wisdom of years. It was that time, after retirement, when man had leisure to reflect, that brought true wisdom. Arb had twenty-seven years of thought, uninterrupted by the rigours of work. It showed in the lines of his skin like the growth-rings of a tree. Yet there was always one thought, one story he returned to. Arb might forget to shave, he might forget to have breakfast, he might sometimes even forget my name. That one story stayed with him. A story six decades old, yet it chilled me every time he told it.

When he spoke, my eyes were fixed on his. Normally I avoided them but each telling of this tale demanded my attention. Clear, grey eyes in a deep-lined face. Eyes as bright and fresh as those of a young man yet they contained no life, no spark of emotion. Arb’s tale is his story of how he came by those eyes. I tapped out my cigar, picked up my whisky and settled back, my gaze on his face, to listen in silence. If there was truth in his tale, this would be the final telling of it.


By the time Arb was twenty, his sight had deteriorated to the point where the spectacles he wore resembled the bottoms of wine-bottles. The prognosis presented to him by doctors was that he would likely be blind by thirty.

A lesser man might have sunk into depression at the news. A more restrained man might do his utmost to conserve what sight remained to him. Arb, supported by his wealthy family, took to reading and travelling, his reasoning being that he should see as much as possible before his eyes failed. At the back of his mind, always, was the thought that somewhere on his travels, or in the books he read, he might find a cure the doctors had overlooked. Some folk remedy, some relic of an ancient medical system now derided by the modern men of science. He had nothing to lose by trying.

Arb examined the writings of the Aztec, Toltec, Inca and Zapotec of South America. He taught himself the Egyptian systems of writing, paid for translations of ancient Chinese and Indian texts, studied the methods and legends of the Australian Aborigine and the Polynesian peoples. So many cultures, so many legends, filled Arb’s head that he became a recognised expert in several areas of anthropological and historical study. Nonetheless, his sight continued to deteriorate and so he returned home to England. Here, he determined to spend the remainder of his sighted days at the British Library, where he intended to absorb as many of the old texts as possible while he could read them.

His status and reputation gave him access to the rare and precious manuscripts held by that library. Arb made full use of his time, spending every waking moment among dusty tomes, some of which had been little read since they were placed in that room.

It was here that Arb came upon Lemegeton, and, in particular, one of its four constituent books, Goetia.

Arb read Goetia twice before he brought in paper and pencil to copy what he found there. By this time, Arb was twenty-seven. If the doctors were correct—and the decline in Arb’s vision suggested they were—he had no more than three years of sight left to him. Speed was of the essence, but he now required a magnifying glass in addition to his bottle-end glasses, and the process of copying even the portions of Goetia he needed was a long and laborious one. Nonetheless, he persisted and eventually succeeded.

So it was, one dark October night, that Arb called the demon Shax into the magical designs drawn in chalk on the floor of his home.

Arb stood in his circle, his notes shaking in his hand. Around the circle strutted a six-foot stork, with arms and hands as well as wings. Through his thick spectacles, Arb squinted at the demon.

“Well?” Shax inclined his head. “Is there something you want, magician?”

“I—” Arb cleared his throat. “You can take away sight.”

Shax clacked his beak. “I see no purpose in doing so to you. Your sight is almost gone. Do you wish me to take the sight of another?”

“No. If you can take sight, you can give it back. Can’t you?”

Shax clasped his hands behind his back, beneath his wings. He lowered his head and paced around the circle, completing a circuit before he spoke. “I can.”

Arb trembled with excitement. “Then you can give me back my sight.” He bit his lip. Perhaps the demon would refuse.

“There is a price.”

“I’ll pay it.” Arb clasped his notes. Any price was worth paying for the return of his eyes. With them, and with his knowledge, he could become a professor, a master of history. Without them, he was a dependant, a cripple. Arb did not ask the price.

Shax did not volunteer the information, though he paused as though expecting the question. When none came, Shax tilted his head upwards. “You need only ask for eyes.”

Arb did not hesitate. “Give me eyes.” It was only when the demon vanished that Arb wondered at the phrasing. Surely he should have asked for sight? He had little time to consider the specifics of Shax’s wording before the demon reappeared.

Shax held out his hand. Blood dripped between his fingers. “Here. Take them.” The demon’s gloss-black eyes shone.

Arb dropped his notes and reached forward. He hesitated at the edge of the circle and wondered if he should reach beyond its bounds. Arb stared at the demon but Shax’s bird-face was incapable of expression.

“Take them,” Shax repeated. “There is no need to fear me this night.”

Arb stretched his fingers. The demon dropped two wet balls into Arb’s hands.


At this point, as always, Arb’s head slumped forward. Impatience made me fidget in my seat. I knew this tale as well as Arb, having heard it, but not believed, many times before. Yet tonight was different. Tonight, Arb rushed his story as though time itself nipped at his heels.

The sun showed only as a bright lip on the distant hills. I shivered, but only partly from the growing chill. Tonight, Arb was not telling a story. He was relating a confession.

“I have them still.” Arb’s deep voice made me jump, even though I knew the words.

“You always promised to show me.” That was my line, delivered with the ease of long practice. I waited for Arb’s response. ‘Someday I will’.

“Tonight I will,” he said, and this small deviation from our script blindsided me. I took a breath, not knowing what to say. Arb continued his tale.


On Arb’s shaking palms nestled two white orbs. Arb stared at them. They stared back with grey discs, centred with black. Arb swallowed, wanting to drop the hideous objects but not daring to show weakness in the face of the demon.

“What do I do with these?”

“You wanted eyes.” Shax chuckled. “These are eyes.”

“But—” How? Whose? So many questions filled Arb’s head, but how to articulate them? “But they are not my eyes.”

“Remove those ridiculous pieces of glass from your face.”

Arb transferred the eyes to one hand, reached up and took off his glasses. Shax blurred into a streak of white.

“Press these eyes to your own.”

Thankful he could not focus, Arb held one eye in each hand. They’re not real. It’s an illusion. With that thought held in his mind, repeated like a mantra, Arb pressed the soft balls into his eyes.

They writhed against his face. Thin tendrils pulled back his eyelids. Soft needles twisted into the spaces between eye and flesh. Arb screamed and pulled at the orbs. They came away, thin streamers of flesh and mucus threaded between them and his own eyes.

Arb took deep breaths to quell the bile rising in his throat. The eyes in his palms were no longer grey, but blue. Shax clacked his beak. Arb glanced at the demon, mesmerised for a second by the detail in feather and wing. He wrinkled his brow. In his hands, the dead eyes cooled, their network of fine veins running to join in a thread at the back.

“I can see.” Arb dropped the eyes. “I can see. How?” His heart pounded its gratitude and terror. Whose eyes?

“How is not important. And you need not concern yourself with who. You will never answer either question.” Shax raised his beak. “All that matters is payment.”

“Payment, yes.” Arb marvelled at the grain in the wooden floor, at the intricacies of the chalk circle he had drawn, over many hours, with a magnifying glass held to his face. “Take anything you want. Name it, and it’s yours.”

“It is rare to find so generous a host.” Shax performed a low bow. “I shall be generous in return. I defer payment for sixty years.”

“Defer?” The euphoria that flowed through Arb stopped as though it had hit a wall. He should have considered his words with more care. His notes, on the floor, mocked him. When Shax arrived, Arb should have used the incantations to drive him into the chalk triangle, where he would be compelled to obey. Free of compulsion, Shax had set a bargain. Arb had given his agreement to anything the demon might demand. His soul chilled in anticipation of eternal torment.

Shax laughed, a chirrup of deadly mirth. “I don’t want your soul. What use is it to me? No, my price is a return of favour, in a sense. I wish you to feed my children.”

Arb let out a long breath. “I will. What do they like to eat?”

“Oh, they savour knowledge, my friend, as do you. Your eyes, your ears, your mind, have already accumulated so much. In sixty more years they will have accumulated so much more.”

Arb could have cried with relief. “You want me to teach your children everything I know? Everything I will know, sixty years from now?”

Shax shook his head. “Teaching is such a tedious and inefficient means of transfer for so much information. No, my friend, you will not need to teach. My children and I will take what we need in our own way. A quick, efficient and—” Shax ruffled his feathers “—for you, I fear, a rather disconcerting way.” With that, he faded into the air.


I realised I had shifted to the edge of my seat, and slid back. I sipped at my whisky, but my glass was empty. Arb topped it up.

“Tonight is the sixtieth anniversary of the night I called upon Shax,” he said. “That’s why I wanted you to come over. One last evening on the porch.”

I coughed. “I don’t think I want to meet Shax, if it’s all the same to you.” It was an attempt to make light of the situation. I had never truly believed in Arb’s tale, even though he told it with such conviction each time. It was clear, though, that Arb believed it absolutely. He believed this was his last night of life. I pursed my lips and determined to at least try to appear serious.

“The anniversary is at ten-thirty. You’ll be gone by then.” Arb settled back in his chair. “I’ll insist on that. I don’t know whether Shax will appreciate an eavesdropper.”

“Arb—” I had no idea what to say, but felt the need to speak. “You know, this story of yours is a good one, but really, I mean…” I sank back into my chair, defeated. It was too late to talk him out of this fantasy, if fantasy it was. I should have done that years ago.

“You don’t believe me. Never did, deep down. I understand.” Arb took a deep swallow of his whisky and grimaced. “It is true. All of it. These eyes I see you with are not mine.” He placed his glass on the table and reached beneath his seat.

“Look, Arb, you don’t really believe you’ll die tonight, do you?” He seemed calm, collected, and in full possession of his faculties. I could not bring myself to believe he expected to die in a few hours.

Arb lifted a cylindrical object, covered in a cloth, from beneath his seat and placed it on the table. He grinned, showing old dentures. “No, I won’t die. If that was all I had to worry about, it wouldn’t be so bad.”

I eyed the object on the table, but Arb left the cloth in place for the moment.

“I studied the legends surrounding Shax.” Arb lifted his glass and took a sip. “He doesn’t kill. Shax takes away sight, hearing and understanding.” Arb emptied his glass in one swallow and poured himself another. “That’s the hell I face. Alive, but as a blind, deaf idiot.”

“Thank God,” I said.

Arb raised his eyebrows. “Really? You want to see me like that?”

“No, of course not. I thought, well, if you expected to die, you might harm yourself. But if all you expect is madness, then I’ll feel better about leaving you alone tonight. In the morning I’ll call back, and I believe I’ll find you disappointed, but alive and well.”

“Best bring a doctor from the asylum with you. You’ll need one.” Arb grasped the cloth. “I’ve told you the tale, but never showed you the proof of it. Now it’s time.” He pulled away the cloth to reveal a glass jar filled with a clear liquid. In it floated two small, round objects.

I leaned closer.

“These,” Arb said, “are my original eyes.” He stared into the jar for a moment, then faced away from me. His hand moved to rub at his cheek.

In my youth, I had spent six miserable months as a slaughterhouse worker. Fortunately, I had escaped that job into another, less bloody, profession, but the short time I spent in that place left memories that would stay with me forever. I had looked into many dead eyes, and could be certain that what I saw in that jar were indeed eyes. Further, I was able to say with confidence that they had not been plucked from sheep, goat or cow. I would have suggested they might be a pig’s eyes, but for one thing. Beneath the filmy coating on the long-pickled flesh, Arb’s porch light picked out the colour of their irises. Blue.

And yet I still could not bring myself to fully believe in Arb’s tale. The eyes might be rubber imitations. Joke shops were filled with such macabre items these days. I should open the jar. I should take them out. I should squeeze them; when they compressed, but did not burst, Arb’s long-standing joke would be at last exposed. Yet one thought lingered in my mind, as if some sly spirit whispered in my ear. What if they did burst?

I did not open the jar. Instead, I gazed out into the cool night, Something rustled among the dark leaves of nearby trees. I squinted, but saw nothing. Only then did it occur to me that I had heard no birdsong at or after sunset, no nightjar, no owl. The countryside around Arb’s house was never silent. Tonight there was no sound aside from the stirring of branches in the light breeze. I rose from my seat.

Arb looked up at me. “Yes,” he said, “It’s time you were leaving. You have to walk back to the road, and it’s best you don’t linger.”

I could not face him. I could not even find it in me to say goodbye. I downed the last of my whisky, gave a curt nod, and stepped from the porch onto the unlit path. Many times I had walked that path in darkness, sometimes inebriated from Arb’s generosity with whisky, but I had never felt fear, or even unease, on the short journey.

My footsteps sounded loud on the gravel. I had never noticed before. I had always been engrossed in the sounds of the night, and the mundane sounds of walking had not registered on my thoughts. Arb’s fence and gate were festooned with shadows. I stopped walking when those shadows moved.

They were birds. Perched in rows along the rails of the fence, and on the bars of the gate. I glanced back at the house, where Arb sat on the porch, his head bowed.

With a fluttering of wings, the birds on the gate rose into the air. I opened it and ran through. As soon as I had passed, those birds resumed their places. They faced the house, although once in a while one of them tilted its head to aim a jet-black eye at me. I backed onto the road, my heart pounding, until I had reached the far side.

I have never been a courageous man. I admit that. Somewhere inside myself, I wanted to rush back to Arb’s side, to help in any way I could against the danger he faced. Those silent birds stopped me. I cursed my cowardice. Birds are light-boned, tiny creatures, easily broken. They could not stop me if I decided to break through their ranks. They had already parted once to allow me exit.

A tear formed in the corner of my eye. Yes, the birds had let me out, but they were unlikely to let me back in. Small they might be, but there were so very many of them. I could not fight. I could do nothing. I knew, too late, that Arb’s chilling tale had been no summer-evening ghost story. The eyes in the jar were his. His deal with the demon he called Shax was real, and its conclusion was to be tonight. Simultaneously fascinated and terrified, I was torn between running for home and staying to watch, from a distance, the events that might shortly transpire here.

What decided me was the stork. I had not seen one before, so was surprised at its height. It strutted to the far side of Arb’s gate and glared at me over the rows of birds. Maybe it was perched on the gate, I could not see for sure, but its head was level with mine.

The stork’s glare disconcerted me, but when two muscular, human arms appeared from beneath its wings and folded across its chest, then I knew what it really was. I knew this stork’s name. It was a name that echoed in my head while I fought age, fatigue and the pains in my chest throughout my long run home.

Tuesday 22 June 2010

Electrofag - the future?

In today's budget, Osborne the Younger didn't blast the smokers, drinkers or drivers. That was a pleasant surprise but it is not, as many news sources are claiming, a 'win' for those groups. Duty didn't go down in any of those cases. We just didn't get another kicking this time. Not really a win, more like one of those days when you turn up for school and the class psycho is off sick. A temporary reprieve.

It's a welcome change, all the same.

Smoking and drinking and driving are all costs that will increase in the future because they can all be blamed for something. As we all know, any problem can be solved by moving money around: if you're a street thug or a child batterer, you can be solved by moving money towards you. If you're a smoker, drinker, driver, chubby or a bit too salty for Righteous tastes, you can be solved by moving money away from you. It all depends on whether the Righteous think they can turn you into a dependent pet. So it's actually comforting to know I'm in several of the non-approved groups. Pity it's so damn expensive.

As Dick Puddlecote notes, there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth after this Budget but for once, it'll be the antismokers and antidrinkers queueing up at the dentist's for re-enamelling. I hope they like the prices. Teeth cost an arm and a leg these days and I'm a bit short. Did you know gold ones can be cheaper than realistic white ones? It's almost worth getting into a fight... But I digress.

I have no idea what a pack of readymades costs these days but I bet you won't get many packs of 20 selling at under a fiver. As for rolling tobacco, it was about £10 for a two-ounce pack before I met Man with a Van. Two ounces could last me up to five days, so let's call that roughly £2 a day, at about 20 a day equivalent (depends how thick or thin you roll 'em).

So readymades currently cost, at shop prices, £75 for 15 packets (there's a reason I chose 15, you'll see in a minute). The equivalent for rollies would be roughly £30 - fifteen days at £2 per day. Man with a Van can cut those prices, of course, but he doesn't have fixed premises and none of his customers will reveal his van to strangers.

So let's say you are on readymades. This is already an extraordinarily good deal. As long as you can get along with it - not every smoker can. Even so, if you are on a pack a day, you risk the cost of just nine days' worth of smoking and if you decide it's not for you, there's eBay. Most Electrofag prices are along similar lines, and even if you do as I do and only use Electrofag when it's too cold and wet to go outside, it does seriously cut the costs.

If you're on rollups the cost difference takes longer to show, but it does show and the cost difference (for a roughly 75/25 mix of tobacco/Electrofag over the year) keeps on separating in favour of Electrofag. The best part is, you can have a sly puff inside even where it's frowned on, and there's no telltale smoke to give you away.

I have been puffing on Electrofag since last August and it has not weaned me off real tobacco. It's not quite the same but it's developing. It has nicotine, it has the leaning-back and blowing-smoke-rings part perfectly simulated but somehow it's not quite exactly right yet. But it's early days, really.

I don't really want to smoke tar. But I want to smoke. I love that relaxation of a whisky, a smoke, watching the smoke curl away, blowing rings while my thoughts ramble into something that might be coherent one day. Or not. It really doesn't matter. The rambling thoughts, the smoke, the whisky, are relaxation. I don't want to think hard while relaxing. Thinking hard is what I do for a living. I never play thought-requiring computer games, I play Doom and Quake and Sudoku, things that require hardly any thought at all, because relaxation is supposed to be not-work. Otherwise it would be like a railway track-layer relaxing by building a model railway sleeper by sleeper.

There is something about the actual burning that Electrofag hasn't yet captured. Perhaps if it was activated by some kind of remote that looked like a lighter, or even if we had a little torch with a simulated flame to pretend to light it. Or maybe if it stopped at a predetermined time to signal 'the end of the smoke' which it currently doesn't. If it then had to be reactivated by the remote, it would feel more like lighting another one and we'd know where we were. But that kind of research is for others to follow.

As it is, apart from massive cost savings, Electrofag has the following advantages.

No ash, no ashtrays required, no danger of being pounced on by the uninformed in uniform for littering when you put out the butt before binning it, no stale-ashtray smell in the mornings.

No fire risk, these things run on USB so they have less than five volts in them. The USB passthrough one has a 1.5 volt rechargeable battery in it. The normal batteries have both contacts at one end so you could make them explode, if you feel you have too many fingers. I have a film (not digital) Canon EOS camera that has similarly dangerous batteries, more so because the contacts are exposed. So that's not a good argument against. If you want to explode a battery, the Canon ones are far easier.

No smell. Nobody can claim second-hand or third-hand smoke because there is no residual smell at all. It just fades away on the air.

No particulates. Nicotine and propylene glycol can harm nobody at cigarette concentrations, real or electric, not even the smoker. It's the particulates that carry the risk and that risk depends directly on how much of the particulates you inhale. So even if you use Electrofag to reduce tobacco intake rather than replace it, you're cutting your particulates. Of course, if you routinely hang around lorry and bus-laden streets and/or spend much time on railway platforms, forget the particulates. Your intake is not measurably different from that of a non-smoker in the same situation anyway. The same is true of carbon monoxide which is why those street-testers weren't allowed to have any controls.

Then there's the surreal. Banana flavoured smoking. Coffee flavour. Absinthe flavour. All kinds of flavours. You can get zero-nicotine Electrofag loadings so nonsmokers can try smoking a roast chicken too. I mean, I thought liquorice papers combined with menthol filters was the height of weird for smoking but Electrofag goes into a level of weird that even Douglas Adams would have marvelled at.

My Electrofag is a Titan, black with a blue light (no link because I'm still pissed off at them for siding with ASH. That's like the termites telling the anteater where the ants live and believing he won't come back for them later). So I get a lot of double-takes because people think I'm chewing a pen until the 'smoke' comes out. Some Electrofags look like real cigarettes and light up red. That could be a lot of fun. Imagine being told to put it away by an irate drone, and watching their face as you drop what appears to be a lit cigarette into your pocket...

Then again, the blue light makes it clear to bar staff that I'm not really smoking. It is useful in that respect. They don't have to come over and check, as they would with a lifelike Electrofag. Blue or green lights are a useful option.

Electrofag has some way to go before it is a total replacement for tobacco but really, it's far more likely to succeed than patches or gum. It looks like smoking. It almost feels like smoking. Almost. Something is still missing but I can't quite put my finger on it.

But then, Electrofag has only existed for a few years and was invented in response to the smoking ban in something of a hurry. It has a future and it's a scary future for ASH and the Dreadful Arnott.

Nicotine-free versions are not illegal to give to any nonsmoker or to any child who can inhale and there will never be a legitimate argument to do so. You cannot levy duty on nicotine-free products either. Electrofag scares the crap out of ASH because it could make 'smoking' cool again.

That's all the reason I need to support it.

If the nonsmokers are 'smoking', then we are needles in a haystack.

Sharp ones.

Here it comes.

[random huge number] of deaths per year due to smoking.

[random huge number] of deaths per year due to drinking.

[random huge number] of deaths per year due to fatty and salty food.

I don't get it. When I go down the High Street, there are hundreds of people. According to official statistics I should be the only one left by now.

Oh, and any antismokers who like a burger or a bag of chips - enjoy being spat on by passers-by, enjoy being told that you should just die in pain and get off the planet of the Nice People, enjoy the abuse and the sneering and the superior looks. You don't even have to be overweight to enjoy the insults any more. I look forward to it. It'll take a little pressure off the smokers.

You can't complain. You encouraged it. This is what you have brought upon us all:

• Low-salt and low-fat foods should be sold more cheaply than their unhealthy counterparts, through the use of subsidies if necessary;

Yes indeed, let's subsidise everything even though we have no money at all. Look, we are going to be eating roadkill in a year from now. I know how to cook it and I'll have a little roadside cafe where it's safe to eat. Won't be cheap. There's not much more than a small burger's worth of meat on the average crow, you know. As for the wild fruit, that's mine.

• Advertising of unhealthy foods should be banned until after 9pm and planning laws should be used to restrict the number of fast food outlets, especially near schools;

More of the 'no chip shop near schools' crap. Here, a chip shop half a mile from the school is full of kids at lunchtime. It takes fit young people ten minutes to walk there, it takes the tubbies fifteen. They eat it on the way back. They have one hour for lunch. If they can get served within twenty minutes, their effective chip-shop range is one mile. Kids will eat crap and get away with it if they're active. The reason they're not active? They are not allowed to be, by Government decree. No climbing trees, no running, no playing in the mud, no interacting with nature, with adults or each other and no competitive games. The problem is not the fast food, Righteous. It's you.

• The Common Agricultural Policy should focus more on public health, ensuring farmers are paid to produce healthier foods;

Farmers produce potatoes, very healthy. We make them into crisps and chips and waffles and croquettes and so on, because potatoes in their healthy form are really pretty dull. Mushrooms, very healthy. Until we soak them in garlic butter, coat them in batter and deep fry them. Parsnips, that staple of these islands before Drake and his meddling, very healthy but best roasted in dripping. Apples, lovely in a crumble loaded with sugar and made with proper butter. What do these loons want? Fields of courgettes and broccoli? Okay. Mix the batter and heat up the oil. We can work with courgette chips if we have to. Grow what you like. We can bugger it up.

It's not what farms produce that matters, it's what we do with it afterwards. Although I suspect this is a sneaky 'stop them producing meat' plan, which will never work because there are plenty of rabbits around. Plenty of vegetarians too, and eating herbivores is permitted by the Bible. So there.

• Action should also be taken to introduce a “traffic light” food labelling system, even though the European Parliament recently voted against this;

They voted against it because it was a stupid and pointless idea, too stupid and pointless even for EU approval and that is pretty much at the limits of both stupid and pointless. It still is, and is still being put forward by stupid and pointless people who are the best advertisement ever for involuntary euthanasia, or for retrospective abortion.

• Local authorities must act to encourage walking and cycling and public sector caterers must provide healthier meals;

No. Local authorities are employed by the public, they are not in charge of the public. They already consider themselves local barons. This is pitchfork and flaming brand stuff we are talking here. We can soak the brands in the melted fat of politicians and solve the energy crisis at a stroke.

• All lobbying of the Government and its agencies by the food and drink industry should be fully disclosed.

All lobbying by these quangos and fake charities should be ended.

Compare and contrast with - if you are against the smoking ban/drink controls you are in the pay of tobacco companies/booze makers who secretly lobby the government. Advertising ban on alcohol and tobacco. Warning labels. Encourage people to do as they are told and not inhale/ingest the Non Approved Thing. Use peer pressure to make them conform.


Can't you see it yet? It is the same thing over and over and over and why, oh why are you dozy bastards still sitting there going 'yeah, right... duh, it's bad like innit. Ban it'. You will not be banning MacDonalds and Burger King. You will be banning sausages and bacon and black pudding and dumplings and roast beef and well, pretty much everything that the health Righteous don't want you to have. You will live on pelleted pig feed and water. It works for pigs and it will work for you. That's not speculation. It really will.

The Cameroid-Clegg Collective will repeal the hunting ban because it is unrelated. That was just anti-Tory spite. They will not repeal the smoking ban because it is exactly the same as the control on drink and now on food. Break one, and you reveal the underlying method and break them all.

These are controls, not for your health but for your souls. You want to end up in blue overalls, working eight hours, sleeping eight hours, playing eight hours? Are you happy with the war with Eurasia - or is it Eastasia now? Happy with making those people you've known all your lives, friends and family, those who are overweight, who like a sherry now and then or who smoke, into unpersons who never existed and never mattered at all? Are you really happy with all that? Are you happy to become an unperson yourself?

I have a great-aunt. This year she is 101. She has all her mental faculties intact although she nods off now and then. She has never taken anyone's orders on smoking, drinking or food and since she lives in Wales, you can bet her fridge is full of lard. We have chip pans you can't get the basket out of when it's cold. We didn't have any problem with fat kids until Labour came along. We once had a problem with a hideous ginger git called Kinnock but we sent him abroad.

Do you want to join the Righteous carousel when you reach the appointed age at which you are no longer economically viable? Or will you think for a little bit and eventually come up with those words that have historically ended rules of the Righteous, that have awakened sleepers down the ages, that have saved worlds from enslavement and stopped the hatefests in their tracks? Will you come up with those words on your own?

Will you sneer and think 'This control won't affect me, like the last one, the one before that and the one before that. I am certain the next one won't either'.

Or will you think 'Hang on a minute. That can't be right...'

Maybe next time, eh? Or the time after that. Oh wait, it's feeding time, the pellets have arrived.

Monday 21 June 2010


I don't like coincidences. Sure, they happen, but when they are too many and too convenient, I start to wonder.

Here are some recent ones.

The Cameroids want to repeal the ban on foxhunting (but they still can't smoke in the pub afterwards). Shortly after they take control, we hear stories about foxes attacking children. Stories we haven't ever heard before. Coincidence.

More and more fake charities are being unmasked as Government-funded pressure groups. Islam has a rule whereby anyone with income gives 1% to charity. The Cameroids have considered this and are considering 'nudging' (forcing) us to pay 1% of our income to charity. unlike Islamic rules however, this is as well as, not instead of, all the other taxes. Then the fake charities can claim the money comes from 'public donations' which are in fact an extra 1% income tax but like NI, they'll pretend it isn't. All pure coincidence and speculation of course.

Oh, and if you're on benefits and cheering this extra tax, consider that it's on income. Your benefits are your income. You'll be paying it too.

One more. A clever one, if this new lot have an ounce of brains. The Cameroid-Clegg Collective are about to hammer public sector pensions. Businesses want the government to make it harder for unions to call strikes. The Collective refuses. Why? Well, the private sector won't be on strike. The public sector will and while they're on strike we can work out which parts people have noticed are missing. Those nobody notices are on strike can be immediately dispensed with.

It's what I'd do if I was in charge.

ABE - another hatefest.

All around the north end of Aberdeen are little home made placards with ABE scrawled on then. They are fixed with cable ties to fences and lampposts. For the one person out there who hasn't heard, some Scots have the idea that 'Anyone But England' should win the World Cup.

Come on, people, this is just embarrassing now. What does it achieve to post spite and bile on the opposite end of the planet from the World Cup? The T-shirts were funny at first but the joke has worn thin now. Sad little placards perpetuating a one-liner that has long since run its course aren't amusing. They just look childish.

I don't care who wins the World Cup. I'm not English and support no team. If you support a team in the contest, good luck to you but really, this sort of football atheism whereby you pick a team and anti-support it is beyond silly.

Okay, there's that Scots-English traditional animosity but I know the areas these placards are appearing in. They are in Labour areas populated by people who vote Labour but have no idea what it means. I know many of them have never ventured further south than Stonehaven and they only went that far to get a deep-fried Mars bar. These are people who are born, live and die on one street, assimilating knowledge throughout their lives that extends to the location of the nearest off-licence, Lidl, pub, Cash Converters, Chavs-R-Us clothes shop and the dole office. That's all the education they desire.

Scotland didn't make these people what they are. Labour did. They are not all idiots. Some could have made something of themselves but Labour put a stop to that. Try to get out of that benefit trap and they'll slap you down hard.

The anti-English feeling is not universal across Scotland. It's mostly concentrated in Labour areas. In those areas, hate is fostered and division is exaggerated. Coincidence?

There are immigrants in this small town. Polish, Asian, Chinese, none numerous but all present. There is no racial tension among the locals. Nobody is stirring any. A few miles down the road, in the Labour-controlled areas, it's very different. There are people who hate people from the next street there. They have been divided almost to the point of total separation from everyone.

The ABE signs are a symptom of this. It's another artificially generated hate that has no real focus and no real meaning. It's hate by people who claim it's because of Thatcher, perpetuated by people who can't possibly remember Thatcher. It's far less common in SNP or Lib Dem areas. Not absent, but far less common. Then there is that old 'Culloden' excuse. Even though few know when or what it was.

Well, it was 1746 and it was the last battle fought on British soil. The Scots lost, not because the English were a greatly superior force (7000 Scots, 8000 English) but because that great hero, Bonnie Prince Charley, made a right Royal bollox of it. He had an army of brave and resolute men and could have won if he had listened to his officers. If it was in my history I wouldn't be bringing it up at every opportunity.

There's no point in this continual hate. There's no point in harping on about things you lost. Why don't I hear pub conversations about MacAdam or Logie Baird or Dunlop or the rest of those Scots who invented great things? They are never mentioned. No, all I hear about are times when the Scots had seven shades of crap knocked out of them, centuries ago, for which they still harbour a grudge.

Now we have the unedifying spectacle of 'Anyone But England' which is nothing more than childish spite from people who revel in being victims. "We can't have it so they can't have it". You should have grown out of that by the time you were five.

There are a lot of intelligent people in Scotland. A lot of potential inventors and businessmen. Where are they all? Locked in some crappy council flat, doped up on Stella and X-factor and cowed by their benefit entitlement. Why do I think they are in any way intelligent? Just look at how they run rings around the benefit system. They see the system, analyse it, find the flaws and loopholes and rip into it. These are not the actions of idiots. These are the actions of intelligent brains that have no means of using that intelligence other than criminal.

It's common to portray criminals as stupid. Many are, it's true, and left to themselves they'd be caught in no time. But when you criminalise an intelligent mind and drop that into the mix, it's not long before the smart one is running things. That intelligent one will recruit and control the dim ones, keep them out of obvious trouble and even arrange to look after them and their families if they are caught. Something like that buys a lot of loyalty. So does showing them how to play the system.

I know, many are thinking 'Don't be silly, you can't just control people so easily' but you are dealing with IQ levels lower than you will ever meet anywhere on the Internet. People who once worked as cleaners or factory floor sweepers or park litter collectors or public toilet attendants - and I am not disparaging those jobs, they are all essential. However, they pay less than Labour's benefits system and even those low-IQ folk can perform that little equation. Work hard for sixty quid, or sit on your backside and get sixty quid. A budgie could work it out. Then there's minimum wage which means that if the work isn't worth minimum wage, nobody will pay to get it done.

So what can they do? They can't get the jobs that pay more than benefits. They have no hope and no future. They are easy prey to the loan sharks and the gang bosses. Lend them money, get them in debt, call in favours to clear the debt (or usually, part of it).

What of the intelligent ones? Well, forget about the eugenics espoused by the Toynbee and her vile ilk. Being born on a council estate does not make you stupid. Nobody is born with their station in life tattooed on their forehead. People born into wealth can be idiots who spend it all and end up destitute. People born with nothing can save and work their way up. It can be done.

The benefits system is a barrier to that. If the current loophole-filled system had been in place when I was young, if I could have wangled enough money to live on the dole, I'd probably be there now. I'd rip my way through all kinds of benefits and it would not have been worth my while bothering with school or university or a PhD or a mortgage or the tax system or any of it. Once in, there's no way out. Earn anything and your benefits are cut by that amount, so work becomes pointless. I'd be earning though.

I'd show the less intelligent how to boost their benefits and take a cut as payment. They'd be better off and so would I. I'd run the tobacco and booze operations (not drugs, not me, but I'd know who was). I'd have an insurance system whereby you pay in and if you're caught on the rob, your family is looked after.

Would I associate with dodgy characters and out-and-out criminals? In the past, I have, because I had little choice. It wasn't the life for me so I worked my way out but it's easy to see why so many don't bother. Partly because it makes people feel as if they are doing something, partly because it's easy money, and partly because many of those people simply can't imagine looking after themselves. They need the state, or a gang boss, some kind of Godfather figure to tell them what to do next. They have never grown up because they have never been allowed to grow up.

It's hard to feel sorry for loud-mouthed chavs but step back and look at their behaviour. It is not adult behaviour. It's tantrums and fights and shouting and stamping. It's stealing and bullying. Scrawny little weasels claiming themselves as 'hard men' when they have never experienced a sharp tap to the solar plexus followed by an upswing to the bridge of the nose. Belligerent children demanding pocket money. They still cling to the teenage gang culture because they cannot move on from there. The intelligent criminals don't want them to. more than that, the socialists don't want them to.

People who are united in hate are easily led. easily controlled. You can get them to do anything. You can get them to gas other human beings and burn the bodies. You can get them to torture and maim innocents who are of the 'other'. You can get them to purge a population of the inconvenient and the opposition. All you need do is foster hate and that is never difficult. Look at the antismokers, listen to their words. Look at those who hate the fat and persecute the dim. All the same. All identical with those who made the ABE signs and put them up all over the north end of Aberdeen.

ABE writers, you are not patriotic Scots.

You are Labour's mugs.

The irony is that no matter how much you hate those you are instructed to hate, Labour will always hate you more.

They are professional haters.